Marie Robinson and her husband, Bob Robinson, have funded two endowed faculty positions, The Bob and Marie Endowed Professorship in Interpersonal Communication and The Bob and Marie Endowed Professorship in Leadership Communication, and one undergraduate scholarship within the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS). Through this generous gift, Robinson hopes to repay the kindness of others who allowed her the opportunity to study and graduate from The University of Alabama.
The establishment of the two endowed faculty positions will provide the College with faculty stipends to support competitive salaries and research projects.
The Robinsons believe that strong, well-funded academic programs attract a high-quality caliber of students who, over time, succeed and perpetuate the strength and growth of the University. By providing support for these positions, they know students in C&IS will continue to receive innovative instruction and become global leaders in the industry.
“When we first began our giving journey, we were singularly focused on funding scholarships,” Robinson said. “Since then, and as we’ve become better educated about how giving streams run together over time, we’ve diversified our plan to include faculty endowments.”
Marie Robinson graduated from The University of Alabama in 1989 with a B.A. in journalism. She currently serves as the executive vice president and chief supply chain officer for Sysco. Previously, she has held senior executive roles within Capri Holdings, Michael Kors, Toys“R”Us, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Smart and Final Stores, LLC, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Robinson currently serves on the C&IS Board of Visitors and was awarded the Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award in 2018 for her excellent display of leadership in corporate strategy and operations management. She is also the chair of the C&IS Capital Campaign committee.
“It is my personal belief that communication fuels the world,” Robinson said. “If we cannot interact productively with each other, within our homes, communities, and workplaces, how will we come together to improve the human experience?”
Endowed faculty positions and student scholarships are funding priorities for C&IS as part of the Rising Tide Capital Campaign. The Rising Tide Capital Campaign is a University-wide effort to raise a minimum of $1.5 billion in philanthropic support for strategic priorities over a 10-year period. For more information, visit risingtide.ua.edu.
Alabama Public Radio is among 75 public media stations selected to participate in the Digital Transformation Program, a virtual program developed by the Poynter Institute to educate, assist, and coach public media senior leaders and their staff on the best strategies and tactics to transform their organization’s digital operations and culture. The training is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
Director Elizabeth Brock notes, “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Alabama Public Radio on many fronts. APR is a hands-on teaching laboratory for UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. Participating in this program will help expand our service to our communities and better prepare a diverse group of student journalists for a rapidly changing digital world.”
The program includes online coaching and training to Alabama Public Radio leadership and staff members to accelerate their digital transformation efforts.
“CPB’s commitment to advancing innovation and diversity continues to be reflected through our strategic investments helping system leaders advance a digital-first, audience-centric approach,” said Patricia Harrison, CPB president and CEO. “The program will provide coaching and resources to help stations become more agile and leverage digital content, platforms, and data to grow and engage new and existing public media audiences.”
In addition to one-on-one and peer group coaching sessions, the program will include a series of educational webinars, work exercises, and resource materials that span the program curriculum. The program will be delivered to four groups of up to 20 public media leaders and their station’s personnel at a time. The groups will have staggered start and end dates over the course of two years, with a new group starting every three months.
“The selected participants are some of the nation’s most trusted sources citizens turn to for local news and information,” said Poynter President Neil Brown. “Our partnership with CPB will help public media outlets build digital-first strategies that inspire an even greater — and more sustainable — connection to grow with their communities.”
The stations selected, from Alaska to Florida, Southern California to Maine, include 40 public radio stations, 16 public television stations and 19 joint licensees. They will join the five National Multicultural Alliance Organizations – Black Public Media, the Center for Asian American Media, Latino Public Broadcasting, Pacific Islanders in Communications, and Vision Maker Media – to form four cohorts of 20 public media leaders, who will participate in the nine-month program. The first cohort will begin training in January.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television, and related online services. For more information, visit cpb.org, follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn and subscribe for email updates.
About Alabama Public Radio
Alabama Public Radio’s transmitter and translator network reaches approximately two-thirds of the state, including Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Montgomery, Muscle Shoals, Florence and parts of Birmingham. APR is an NPR affiliate, carrying a mix of NPR news and information, classical music, and other music genres. The APR program schedule includes a significant amount of locally produced music, news and public affairs programming and has earned more than 150 international, national and regional awards. Learn more at apr.org.
About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media, and 21st-century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and at newsrooms, conferences, and organizations around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum, with hundreds of interactive courses and tens of thousands of registered international users. The Institute’s website produces 24-hour coverage about media, ethics, technology, and the business of news. Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise, a digital information literacy project for young people, first-time voters, and senior citizens. The world’s top journalists and media innovators rely on Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians, and broadcasters. This work builds public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment, and discourse that serves democracy and the public good. Learn more at poynter.org.
The University of Alabama’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) was recently awarded the Dr. F.H. Teahan Chapter Awards for Diversity and Outstanding Professional Adviser for the 2020-2021 academic year.
C&IS alumna Sara (Sanderson) Franklin was awarded the Outstanding Professional Adviser Award for the second time, the first being in 2017. Franklin is a member of Alabama PRSA and is the executive director of community engagement and partnership for the Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama.
“For more than five years, Sara Franklin has served as UA PRSSA’s professional adviser, and her commitment to building a bridge between our public relations students and PR professionals in the Alabama PRSA chapter is unwavering,” said Tracy Sims, advertising and public relations senior instructor and UA PRSSA’s faculty adviser.
Franklin organized several networking opportunities for the PRSSA chapter, including hosting a panel of professionals representing PR agencies and in-house PR for corporations
and nonprofits. She also connected UA students to mentors through the Professional Mentorship Program, which prepares UA PRSSA seniors for membership in PRSA and successful careers in public relations.
This year also marks the second time the UA PRSSA chapter has received the diversity award, the first being in 2019. Throughout the year, the UA PRSSA diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) board planned virtual events to generate awareness among its members of inclusion issues related to the public relations industry. The chapter hosted virtual meetings with representatives from Howard University, Temple University and The University of Texas at Arlington to discuss ideas to progress DE&I initiatives.
Katrin Friesen, former UA PRSSA vice president of diversity and inclusion, said that her hope was for these programs to educate PRSSA members and prepare them for their future in public relations.
“The industry we are pursuing holds an obligation to do the public justice, so educating ourselves and others is very important to becoming strong PR professionals,” Friesen said.
Friesen and members of the DEI board actively worked to integrate diversity and inclusion into the chapter’s activities, and Friesen hopes this legacy will continue in the future for UA PRSSA.
The University of Alabama PRSSA Chapter was founded in 1970 and currently boasts over 180 members. It is a leading pre-professional organization for students interested in public relations, communications and other related fields.
The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has recently announced its plan to launch three new online degree programs. Beginning in fall 2022, the College will offer bachelor’s degrees in public relations, advertising and communication studies through the University’s UA Online program.
The online degree for each of the three majors will offer the same courses as the in-person versions of the programs. Applications for admission are available now to begin classes next fall.
“We are eager to add these new online options to the outstanding curricula the College already offers students,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of C&IS. “The opportunity to expand our programs to an even broader group of prospective students through virtual means is something we believe will continue to strengthen both our national and international profiles,” he said.
These new online degree programs in C&IS will be offered in addition to a variety of existing online programs in the College including: a minor in communication studies; master’s degree programs in advertising and public relations, communication studies, journalism and media studies, and library and information studies; and a doctoral degree in communication and information sciences with a focused area of study in library and information studies.
UA Online is recognized as a national leader in online education. For more information about online degree programs offered through UA Online, visit online.ua.edu.
Acclaimed author and journalist John S. Sledge has been named the recipient of the 2021 Clarence E. Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing.
The award was established in 1998 in memory of Clarence E. Cason, the first chair of The University of Alabama’s Department of Journalism, now the Department of Journalism and Creative Media. Each year, the University bestows this honor upon a recipient with a strong connection to Alabama and whose writings, like those of the award’s namesake, have made a critical contribution to the journalism and literature of the South.
“It is a privilege to be able to honor John with this award,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. “He has made exceptional contributions to the field of journalism and is a true embodiment of all that this award represents.”
Born in Florida, Sledge earned a B.A. in history and Spanish from Auburn in 1980 and an M.A. in history with a specialization in historic preservation at Middle Tennessee State University in 1982. Sledge began working as an architectural historian for the Mobile Historic Development Commission in 1985 and still works there today.
Sledge also took on the role of Book Page editor at the Mobile Register from 1996 to 2012, writing a column each week, many of which were collected as Southern Bound, and editing thousands of reviews, mainly Alabama-related books, by local reviewers, an enormous gift to the Alabama literary community.
Over time, his growing expertise led him to write books about Mobile’s historic cemeteries, ornamental ironwork, Greek Revival architecture and then, expanding his range, The Mobile River, These Rugged Days: Alabama in the Civil War and The Gulf of Mexico: A Maritime History.
Sledge currently resides in Fairhope, Alabama, with his wife Lynn.
Award-winning news anchor Janet Hall O’Neil and her husband Frank O’Neil have generously funded an endowed faculty position in the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS). The Endowed Faculty Position in Journalistic Integrity will emphasize how the business model in news impacts journalism. Hall hopes the gift will help teach fairness and ethical reporting for future generations.
“I believe it is crucial, now more than ever, to promote and nurture journalistic integrity in our classrooms. Great journalism doesn’t just happen; it must be intentional and it must be protected,” Hall said.
Hall graduated from The University of Alabama with a B.A. in broadcast and film. She served the state of Alabama as a reporter and a news anchor for more than 40 years, notably as the co-anchor of WBRC FOX6 News. She has been recognized with numerous awards throughout her career including the Associated Press Best Anchor in Alabama in 2001 and 1994, as well as awards for Best Feature Story, Best Documentary and Extraordinary Coverage of a Planned Event.
In 1999 Hall was named the “Local Hero in the Fight Against Breast Cancer” by the Komen Foundation. In 1998 she was given the “She Knows Where She’s Going Award” by Girls Incorporated of Alabama, and in 1997 she was recognized by Birmingham AIDS Outreach for Best Media Coverage in the fight against AIDS/HIV. Hall has served the community as a board member of AIDS Alabama, The American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries, and Urban Ministries. She is a long-standing volunteer and supporter of The Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure and The Hoover School System’s Finley Awards.
Hall is also a member of the C&IS Board of Visitors, and she was awarded the C&IS Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award in 2004 and the C&IS Outstanding Alumni Award in 1989.
Frank O’Neil received his B.A. in broadcasting and journalism and M.A. in communication from UA and is the former senior vice president and chief communication officer for ProAssurance. He has also served as an adjunct instructor for UA and Birmingham-Southern College. O’Neil shares his wife’s passion for journalism and hopes the endowed faculty position will encourage integrity within the profession.
“True journalism requires not only even-handed, unbiased reporting of the facts. It must be supported by a viable business model that values and supports integrity,” O’Neil said. “Our hope is that this fellowship will promote the development of media business models that will allow true journalism to flourish in the new digital age.”
Both Hall and O’Neil credit C&IS with providing them a basis of knowledge they would use to begin their successful careers. They believe the new Endowed Faculty Position in Journalistic Integrity will inspire current C&IS students to develop an ethical foundation for their professional careers in news media.
“The University provided each of us with a strong foundation for successful careers in news and communications. We are honored to help provide a new foundation for the highly-qualified future communications professionals now being trained at The University of Alabama,” they said.
Endowed faculty positions are a funding priority for C&IS as part of the Rising Tide Capital Campaign. The Rising Tide Capital Campaign is a University-wide effort to raise a minimum of $1.5 billion in philanthropic support for strategic priorities over a 10-year period. For more information, visit risingtide.ua.edu.
The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) is pleased to establish a new endowed scholarship in honor of the late E. Bruce Harrison.
Harrison was a leader in the journalism and public relations fields for more than four decades. Known as the “Dean of Green PR,” he held several executive positions where he led campaigns supporting his passion for environmental communication. He served as the vice president and environmental information officer of the Chemical Manufacturers of America and vice president and chief communication officer of Freeport Minerals Co. He also co-founded one of the most successful PR firms dedicated to environmental communications, E. Bruce Harrison & Co.
Harrison’s success and excellent leadership led to his achievement of many honors and awards including the Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award from C&IS in 2001. He is also a recipient of the Page Distinguished Service Award from the Arthur W. Page Society – the world’s premier membership organization for communication professionals.
Even with an array of public relations accomplishments, Harrison always had an admiration and love for journalism – the field where his career began. The former journalist shared this enjoyment for the field with his wife, Patricia Harrison, who is the longest-serving president and chief executive officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
The E. Bruce Harrison Memorial Scholarship is generously funded by Harrison’s wife, Patricia, and will be awarded to C&IS students majoring in journalism.
“I know Bruce would be so proud that his commitment to journalism will be carried forward through this important University of Alabama Scholarship,” his wife said.
Harrison leaves behind a legacy of compassionate generosity toward C&IS students and rising journalism professionals. The College is proud to honor him through this endowed scholarship that will promote excellence in journalism.
Imagine this: You worked hard for your engineering degree—tackling complicated mathematics courses, co-oping for nationally acclaimed manufacturing companies and putting in the extra hours with study groups and tutors to ensure your academic success. Your academic credentials and co-op experience helped you land a great job out of college with a better-than-average starting salary and healthy company culture. After two years at the company, you finally get the opportunity to lead a project—a small project, but one you can proudly put your name on.
So, you carefully listen to your client’s needs, you and your team come up with a few different solutions at various price points and pick the one you agree your client will like the most. Your team creates charts and graphs, drafts talking points and ENGINEERED TO SPEAK timelines, and even manages to come in slightly under budget. Now, it’s time to present your pitch to the client. In front of a conference room filled with various stakeholders in your client’s business, you run through your presentation. But why do they have so many questions? Why do they look so confused and overwhelmed? You triple-checked all the math, priced every project component competitively and it’s all laid out in the presentation clearly—or is it?
As some of the brightest minds in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), engineers have a language all their own—but not everyone speaks that language. Translating complicated and nuanced ideas into the vernacular of everyday people with confidence and clarity is an essential component to success in the engineering world. As a campus partner to UA’s College of Engineering, C&IS prepares and equips engineering students to meet these challenges head on and excel as leaders in their careers through its valuable faculty expertise and classroom instruction, as well as the opportunities provided to master their craft.
EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
If anyone at The University of Alabama are experts on public speaking, it’s Dr. Alexa Chilcutt and Dr. Adam Brooks, who serve as the director of C&IS’ public speaking program and the director of the Speaking Studio, respectively. Chilcutt and Brooks have designed and administered more than 100 professional development workshops for corporations and continuing education departments nationwide, teaching a vast skillset of transferable communication skills.
“What we’re seeing across the globe is a large conversation about how quickly we’re advancing in technologies and the ways in which this is going to fundamentally transform our country and the world,” said Brooks. “However, many of these brilliant minds—scientists, engineers, software developers— lack the skills and knowledge to effectively communicate their ideas to any audience.”
This is why, in 2019, Brooks and Chilcutt incorporated their stories and strategies into their book Engineered to Speak: Helping You Create and Deliver Engaging Technical Presentations. The first of its kind, the book is designed to pair their approachable workshop style with the experiences of dozens of technical professionals to teach oral communication, public speaking and visual aid design skills specifically to a STEM audience.
Brooks and Chilcutt are not the only professionals to notice the gap between the need for engineers to make presentations and their proficiency with public speaking. In fact, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which is the accrediting body for more than 4,000 engineering programs in 32 countries, recently updated their criteria for Accrediting Engineering Technology Programs. The update now includes “an ability to apply written, oral and graphical communication in both technical and non‐technical environments; and an ability to identify and use appropriate technical literature.”
As these leaders in engineering education are enhancing their commitment to developing the communication skills of engineering students, C&IS experts are providing them with practical solutions to make the shift as simple as possible.
“Engineering curriculum is intense and extremely dense. It is difficult for them to squeeze in a course devoted to communication. Now, according to ABET they are required to incorporate learning outcomes that ensure proficient communication skills,” said Chilcutt. “We have specifically written the book to include a 10-module curriculum. This will allow engineering programs to drop learning modules into existing curriculum.”
PUBLIC SPEAKING CLASSES
Depending on the exact course of study, an engineering major enrolled at The University of Alabama will have a schedule with heavy portions of math, chemistry and computer sciences. These are not courses that emphasize the art or importance of effective communication, and unlike other majors on campus, their structured course list does not afford them a plethora of chosen electives.
In 2011, Chilcutt collaborated with aeronautical and mechanical engineering faculty who received funding from the National Science Foundation to create a research experience for UA Engineering students. For the next eight summers, Chilcutt designed the communication component of this curriculum for engineering students and taught summer courses exclusively for them. Since then, Brooks and Chilcutt are viewed as campus-wide experts and requested to speak with senior capstone engineering courses. They have also hosted workshops on how to give effective presentations.
In addition to the years of support Chilcutt and Brooks have provided to assist engineering faculty, C&IS offers public speaking courses for students all across campus. Currently four UA Engineering degrees require COM 123: Public Speaking. According to Dr. Ed Back, Professor and Department Chair of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, this course has had a tremendous impact.
“In professional practice you present proposals, defend your solutions and deal with really challenging questions,” said Back. “Being able to communicate is really essential. Our graduates who possess a well-developed technical competency but can also communicate effectively—their careers just skyrocket.”
While upper-level courses in UA Engineering stress communication as a learning outcome, leading team conversations and delivering complicated presentations to a variety of audiences are skills that can be acquired by learning the basics. In addition to the way Brooks and Chilcutt teach public speaking, their book emphasizes a process to public speaking that transcends natural abilities and personal charisma.
“What Adam and I found in talking to countless engineers and technical professionals is that they love a good process,” said Chilcutt. “If you give them a process—a blueprint for how to put together a presentation and step-by-step instructions for crafting a speech—they follow it. Then, if they get a little bit outside of their comfort zone and embrace a delivery style, charisma and creativity, they’re just brilliant.”
Engineering students who wish to improve their public speaking skills have connected with C&IS in a variety of different ways. In addition to the hundreds who have taken COM 123 over the years, many have entered the speech contest for the Holle Award for Excellence and Creativity in Communication for Public Speaking; a few have even won. Still yet, the engineering students who seem to have excelled the most have crafted their skills behind the desk of the College’s public speaking laboratory, the Speaking Studio.
THE SPEAKING STUDIO
When chemical engineering graduate, Russell Durand (’18), was finishing his first co-op rotation at Kia Automotive’s manufacturing plant in Georgia, he was asked to give a presentation in front of upper management. Reflecting on the presentation and knowing that more were sure to come as he continued his co-op experience, Durand took it upon himself to enhance his skill level with public speaking.
“Engineering students have to know what technical information to share and how to share it in a way that it makes sense to someone who might not have the same background,” said Durand. “I wanted to get involved with something public speaking related because I saw that students sometimes had really good projects they completed as interns, but, because they couldn’t craft that clear message, the project kind of got brushed over.”
The Speaking Studio actively recruits students from all over campus to serve as consultants. This role offers a transformational experience that enhances their skills and their comfort level with public speaking, as well as their ability to craft effective messages. Now working at the Exxon Mobil Pipeline Company, Durand credits much of his success to the time he spent developing his skills at the Speaking Studio, where he also worked as a consultant.
“I learned a lot as a Speaking Studio consultant,” said Durand. “It helped me improve tremendously because, as I helped others, I was working on it myself—seeing what’s effective and what’s not effective. It helped me get this job at Exxon.”
During an appointment at the Speaking Studio, trained public speaking consultants like Durand record a client’s presentation and offer them immediate feedback. This is the only service on campus that offers this kind of feedback, and consultants can critique and encourage clients who are crafting both individual and group presentations.
Durand is not the only UA graduate currently working in the STEM field with experience as a Speaking Studio consultant. After graduation, Alexa Rosenberg (’20) began working for NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center for a program that offers prizes to the public for solving technical problems NASA faces such as how to get increased nutrients in astronaut diets.
According to Rosenberg, her experience with public speaking played largely into why she was selected for her role. “My boss saw my Speaking Studio experience on my application and said, ‘Thank God. None of us like presenting,” said Rosenberg. “They gave me a project to work on that includes a full presentation to NASA headquarters, which was exciting.”
Whether UA students are pursuing a degree from C&IS, engineering or something entirely different, diverse experiences and skillsets increase their marketability to potential employers. And students who served as Speaking Studio consultants often directly tie these experiences to helping them launch successful careers and fast-tracking their promotability.
Now, imagine you’re back in the conference room in front of your client. All of your math, charts and graphs, and budget are ready and prepared. It’s time again for the big pitch— only this time, it’s not just your skill as an engineer you bring to the table. Your clear and confident message captures your client’s attention because you supplemented your education with experience and instruction from the leading experts in the field of public speaking.
Engineers have some of the brightest technical minds in the world and communicating their ideas effectively distinguishes them in their field. As the University continues to educate and graduate global leaders in the world of STEM education, a commitment to excellence in communication will ensure their success. At C&IS, our public speaking curriculum, Speaking Studio and expert faculty will lead the way in shaping the next generation of engineering professionals.
The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) is dedicated to fostering collaboration, unity and passion through distinguished faculty and staff. This fall, C&IS welcomes six new faculty members who bring with them each a notable record of academic achievement. C&IS is proud to introduce the new faculty who will continue the College’s tradition of excellence:
Dr. Xiaoti Fan, Visiting Assistant Professor, Communication Studies
Dr. Dimitrios Latsis, Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Studies
Dr. Dongjae “Jay” Lim, Assistant Professor, Advertising and Public Relations
Camille DeBose, Instructor, Journalism and Creative Media
Nora Stone, Visiting Instructor, Journalism and Creative Media
Zachary Tigert, Instructor, Journalism and Creative Media
Minerva Portfolio Program students finished out the academic year strong with a total of 21 creative advertising awards won in regional, national and international competitions.
Minerva is the creative portfolio specialization in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. The two-year program places selected students into a cohort through a rigorous application process and guides them through an intense process of creative discovery.
“The work created by Minerva Portfolio Program students this year was outstanding,” said Mark Barry, director of Minerva. “And, to have accomplished what they did while navigating virtual classes, managing physical isolation, and enduring the emotional traumas caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of exceptional. They are a special group for sure.”
Two student teams brought home Awards of Merit from the Young Ones Student Awards put on by The One Club for Creativity in New York. The Young Ones competition is considered one of the premier competitions for creative students internationally. The student submissions responded to a creative brief submitted by Spotify and Extra Gum.
The complete list of the 2020-21 Minerva student awards is as follows:
1 Silver National American Advertising Awards (ADDYs):
Farrow & Ball, Colour Tells a Story – Kat Best, Art Director and Nicole Zikan, Copywriter